Author Archives: Jim

Enfant Terrible

I’m certainly not a highly lauded professional political commentator or pundit. Lord knows there are plenty of them out there, blogging away to their audiences large or small, as well as filling the airwaves on every possible network known to mankind in nearly every country on the planet.

God only knows that I don’t fit the description above, firstly I’m simply not photogenic enough.

There has been enough discussion of our current President to fill a library. Those of us on the left think that he is an Enfant Terrible, governing from a smartphone (isn’t that terribly oxymoronic in this case?), and trading insults halfway across the world with possibly the only other world leader who is of equal standing when it comes to exhibiting symptoms of a bit too little in the smarts department.

Firstly, I’m not so sure that Mr. Trump doesn’t think that running the U.S. Government isn’t just another CEO job at a largish company, where the boss get’s to sit at a big shiny desk and issue all sorts of unreasonable orders and have his secretary pick up his dirty boxers off of whatever hotel room floor they were left on last night.

Kim Jung Un apparently isn’t so different, except perhaps he has better hair. He’s the grandson of  Kim Il-Sung, the first leader of post-war North Korea, and like our own Donald J. Trump, was raised to be a rich brat, knowing nothing but a life of luxury, never actually having to be responsible for anything except his own pleasure. Coming to power at the age of 29, Kim is apparently even more ruthless than Trump, being able to have his detractors murdered or jailed.

This past week, these two clowns have been hurling ever bigger threats at each other, while the rest of the world can do nothing but sit and hold their collective breaths. Purportedly, North Korea is now a nuclear power, and both countries are now threatening to toss nuclear bombs at each other.

This isn’t anything particularly new on the world scene. As a child of the late 50’s and the 1960’s, I lived through what is known as the “Cold War”, where at any given moment we were expecting nuclear holocaust to break out between the U.S. and Russia. Growing up in South Florida, I can remember the drills we went through as children in school, ducking and covering under our desks during the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962. Like hiding under a desk is going to save you from a nuclear bomb launched from 90 miles away?

Many of my relatives and friends are ardent conservatives, and freely admit that they voted for our current clown of a President, some so bold as to give the reason that they simply could not vote for a woman, or that they hated Hillary Clinton, for some unspecific and barely coherent reason. I understand that, I think. My brother told me flat-out that he refused to vote for Obama in 2008 because “I ain’t voting for no damn nigger.” He does admit that he had a change of heart and voted for Obama in 2012, but, the point is that a lot of people voted for Donald Trump simply as a vote against Hilary Clinton. It wasn’t necessarily a vote “for” anything as much as it was a vote against a specific person. The democratic party really screwed up by putting Hillary on the ballot, and Debra Wasserman Schultz, as the then chair of the party,  should be pilloried for the way she subverted the whole party platform in favor of Mrs. Clinton.

Some of these people are beginning to admit that they made a mistake. Not quite so far as to admit that they should have voted for Mrs. Clinton, but a genuine regret that Mr. Trump is now our President and is doing an absolutely abysmal job of it. He is embarrassing our country by simply opening his mouth and speaking. His temper tantrums on Twitter at 3am are a classic example of an uneducated boring twit who has been given too much power.

The fact that he thinks the Congress and the Supreme Court are his “employees” is enough to make shivers run up and down your back. Has this man ever read the constitution and bill of rights? Has he any idea how our government is supposed to work? Of course I’m quite positive that most of our members of Congress have lost sight of this as well. I truly fear for the United States of America and wonder if we are headed for another civil war? Our years as the world’s foremost superpower are definitely waning. Is this how the citizens of Spain felt when the British sent the Armada to the bottom of the sea?

We have an Enfant Terrible in charge, and no one seems to be able to rein him in. How much destruction can he cause to our country or the world before people wake up and realize we made a huge mistake? Is the best we can hope for that he gets bored and quits? Or that he is found guilty of some arcane crime and removed from office? Can it happen soon enough to save us?

And so it begins

CruzToday, Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for President. It’s no secret that I tend to be a bit more liberal than those who might support Mr. Cruz, but I do try and be somewhat objective when I look at the field of people who want to be our next leader.

 

It strikes me somewhat that he made the announcement from the campus of Liberty University. If you recall, this is the university founded and funded by Jerry Falwell. In case you slept through the Reagan years, Falwell was a pretty vocal preacher who managed to accumulate a ton of money and dabble in politics from behind the scenes. I’m trying to be polite. I have preachers  in my family.

It is also noteworthy to mention that the Wall Street Journal article I read stated that while there were 10,000 people attending his announcement, attendance by students was mandatory.

He seems to be following a path that has proven to be a rocky road for past candidates of all parties. How to reach out and embrace the far religious right but yet remain attractive to the rest of the country. I’m baffled as to why any candidate spends so much energy trying to appear in line with the conservative religious right.

Although 83% of Americans identify as christian, less than 20% actually go to church. In fact, the number is more like 17%. I think many Americans identify as Christian in much the same manner they identify with being a Floridian, or a Hoosier – they really don’t give it much thought except when being asked.  14.1% of America identifies as Black, and certainly a greater majority of them practice their religion and go to church regularly.

 

Mr. Cruz wants to eliminate the Health care law known as Obamacare, even though figures now show that it is working very well, despite the 22 states with Republican governors who chose not to participate. The number of Americans without health care has dropped to some 12%. Many millions of Americans have health care that otherwise would not be able to afford it at all. Most Americans who say that they hate Obamacare actually like all the various components of it when they are asked questions about features of the plan and those features are not connected to the word “Obama”.

What Mr. Cruz may have going for him as his best weapon is American apathy, especially among the young. Voting is at an all time low, and while the country as a whole is skewing more liberal, the conservative voting block actually goes to the polls. It’s possible a buffoon like Mr. Cruz could make it all the way, although since most in his own party can’t stand him, I’m hoping that he’s going to do a great job at splintering the party and the money.

If only we had a really outstanding middle of the road candidate that everyone could back.

 

 

 

One Bad Apple

Throughout much of 2014, the news has been dominated by the riots and protests generated over the death at the hands of a cop of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. These protests were exacerbated by the further deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles. Add in the death of the young man with the pellet gun, and the memory of Trayvon Martin frombad apple
Florida a few years ago, and a lot of people in our country are questioning police brutality. Especially when Grand Juries seem to be unable to do anything as simple as just refer the matter to a courtroom. The police end up looking invincible and above the law.

fatcopMy partner and I have had some brief discussions about this, which quickly end because it is so obvious that we are at polar opposites. I don’t trust most cops as far as I could pick one up and throw him, while my partner still seems to live under this fairy-tail umbrella of 1940’s propaganda that all cops hand out suckers and just want to help you get your cat out of a tree. Sometimes I think a lot of white people’s  perception of how the police in this country work today was formed solely from watching old Dennis the Menace shows.

OK, that’s harsh and probably a bit over the top, but it’s why we don’t discuss it much. We have such different views. I’m not real sure how I formed mine, or why. I seem to be at odds with not only my partner, but likely most of my family as well.

I was part of the military establishment as a young man, my only negative experience with a cop was the ticket for a rolling stop around the corner from my house (I came to a full stop – this teen aged cop just had an agenda), but I think I do come from a much broader world view than my other half – having lived for a time on three of our continents. I still remember getting off ship at my very first port of call in 1979, in Spain, the city of Bilbao along the northern coast, and being completely flabbergasted at seeing the local police carrying assault rifles slung over their shoulders. It was my first exposure to the fact that the American Way was a bit different than what happens in other parts of the world.

The reality is that I am sure that most officers of the law want to do a good job and in fact would likely be horrified to think that someone thought of them as a “bad cop”.

The biggest problem I think stems from how our police are trained. Especially in the day since 9-11 when the Feds are handing out riot and assault gear like candy, local police are trained to provide maximum effect against “the terrorist.” And, the reality is that this anonymous terrorist has proved time and again to be just a kid from next door. The crazy people who shoot up schools and theaters turn out to be some ones next door neighbor who always appeared to be normal to those around him.

Yet, our police are trained to trust no one, to suspect that even the 88-year old granny walking across the street probably has an explosive cane or a .44 magnum tucked into her pantyhose. Our local law-enforcement people on the street have begun to police from a point of fear – where they fear the average citizen.

Toss in the ever present racism, which never went away – it just adopted nicer clothes and a better accent, and you can’t help but have these situations where the police end up making horrific mistakes and people, especially brown people, die.

While not yet approaching the level of the civil rights protests I recall from my childhood, the protests over these recent police acts are being sustained, and could grow to a point where societygj wakes up and some changes are made. I applaud our young people who devote time and energy to these protests. For so long I despaired that our current generation would never look up from their phone screens long enough to notice anything. Change only happens when people get passionate about something.

Our Grand Jury process needs an overhaul. They don’t work at all like a regular court process – the District Attorney is pretty much allowed to present whatever “evidence” he wants, without rebuttal, and with minimum standards of proof. Grand Juries are simply tools of a prosecutor and a holdover from medieval practices and should probably just go away. Let everything come to trial before a jury of peers.

Policemen have some protections that place a lot of their actions above the law, they are often given great leeway. I’m sure this evolved so that policemen don’t have to stop and think too long about whether or not they are violating someones rights while also trying to do their jobs, but perhaps we have gone a bit too far down that road.

There are too many cases where entire SWAT teams are being called out for routine events – in many cases simply because there is a SWAT team, they have all this equipment, and it needs to be used to be justified. It’s like swatting a fly with an atomic bomb and should stop.

Add in the fact that any involvement with the police can be very costly and it gets worse. Even if you think you don’t deserve that ticket you just got, in order to protest it, you have to take time off work, hire a lawyer, devote hours to a legal process that many of us barely understand and most of us just don’t think it’s worth our time. We pay the fine and move on. Most of the people who deal with police as a daily part of their lives simply don’t have the resources to fight back. Add in the training our police get today with the natural over-abundance of macho ego that a lot of cops carry around and people are afraid. We should not be afraid of the people we hire to protect us, but the simple truth of the matter is that it is a system spoiled by those few bad apples in the bunch.

Yet, the biggest problem we still have in this country is simply racism. It’s the giant bug under the rug that no one wants to talk about. Being born and raised in the south, with a bushel basket of redneck relatives, I know first hand that racism in many parts of our society is not really much better than the old Jim Crow days. Lynchings may have stopped, but there are plenty of people in the south, including some of my own family, who are at the very least uncomfortable in the presence of people of color. Some of my family and extended friends of theirs openly still use the “n” word. This simply isn’t healthy to our society – we can’t move backwards or tread water in one spot – America is increasingly brown, and we haven’t been “The Greatest” anything for a couple of decades.

I have no answers. But, I do know that if I have a choice, I will avoid cops. I’ll turn off a street early, I’ll go around a block, I’ll stop and wait and let them pass. I’d just as soon not interact with them at all.  I don’t trust them and it’s their fault. For the most part, cops are the new school bullies, except there isn’t anyone to complain too and the stakes are a lot higher, especially if you are brown.

I saved a life

downloadA few years ago, the company I worked for decided it might be a good thing to install a few AED devices around our campus. AED stands for Automatic External Defibrillator.

If you’ve watched those TV shows with paramedics that put paddles on a person’s chest and shout “Clear!” and then shock someone, then you know pretty much what an AED device does.

We were at the Wilton Manors bowling alley the other day for the regular Wednesday Prime Timers bowling event. The Ft. Lauderdale chapter of Prime Timers is one of the largest in the country, and as the name might imply, it’s a group of older guys who get together for various social events. In general, we have a great time.

It’s a bit early in the season, not quite all the snowbirds have arrived, but we had enough people to fill 4 lanes, and a good time was had by all. As we were getting ready to leave, we were having the usual banter about who was going to lunch and where, when the desk manager of the bowling alley came rushing by and mentioned that someone down the alley was having a heart attack.

Sure enough, a few lanes down from us, there was a heavy set guy stretched out on the approach apron, with his head jammed up against the control pedestal. The desk man pointed out that he had an AED – and he proceeded to dial 911.

There were probably a dozen of us guys standing around, and they all did nothing. No one rushed to help the guy, they just stood there, doing a pretty good job of imitating a bunch of confused old guys who had no clue what to do. Don’t get me wrong – I think this is the same reaction that 9 out of 10 Americans would have anywhere – everyone seems afraid to do anything, no one want’s to take charge. I guess that is why both times I’ve ever served on a jury, I’ve been jury foreman.

This guy was starting to turn awful colors, so I grabbed the AED and headed off to help.

The thing about these AED’s is that whoever thought them up did a damn fine job of it. They are made specifically for people who have no clue as to what they are doing. Sure, it helps if you have training, but even if you have no idea what to do, all you have to do is grab that spot that says “PULL” and ..well, pull. The device immediately starts talking to you in a very loud and clear voice and tells you exactly what to do.

The first thing it tells you to do is to remove the clothing from the victim, including the instructions to cut it off if needed. There is even a handy pair of scissors and a razor blade in the device to help. Trust me on this – if someone is having a heart attack and laying on the floor unconscious, there is no such thing as modesty. They would much rather that you ripped off their shirt, cut off their blouse – whatever – just get them awake again. Don’t be worried about modesty.

This guy was wearing a t-shirt, so I just pulled it up around his armpits — there was someone brave enough to help me – and for the life of me I have no idea who it was.

I peeled the adhesive off of each electrode, and looked briefly at the diagram on the box as to where to place them. Each AED device is a bit different – but just look at the pictures – it’s practically stupid proof. This guy was only moderately hairy — if they are a true bear, there is a razor to shave off some hair so that the pads stick. Trust me – a dry shave is better than dying because someone was afraid to use the razor. I didn’t need it on this guy.

Once you get the pads on, the device actually knows what you have done – and it proceeds to “analyze” the patient. If the victim does not need to be shocked, then the device will recognize this and tell you. In this case, this guy needed a shock – and the device told me so, and then told me to press the orange button. It warned that no one should be touching the victim. I pressed  the button and the guy immediately rose about an inch off the floor and settled back down again.

The AED device then instructs you to begin CPR, starting with chest compression’s. It even emits a metronome sound to indicate how fast you should be bouncing victim’s chest. In the AED class we were told that you need to compress about 2 inches – and sometimes you might actually break a rib. This is considered normal and nothing to be concerned about. Ribs can heal.

After about 25 or 30 compression’s, the color started to return to the guys face, and his eyes popped open. They were amazingly blue.

The AED device signaled that I should begin mouth-to-mouth, but the guy was awake and breathing on his own. In our certification class, our instructor told us that mouth-to-mouth was optional these days, in most cases, the chest compression’s are enough to get air into the victim, so mouth to mouth isn’t really required if you are a bit squeamish.

The paramedics arrived and took over – and I got the shakes and had to sit down. But, this guy lived, and apparently I’m the reason why he is having a Thanksgiving this year. AED_sign

I’ve done a lot of terrible things in my life, but this helps make some of them a bit easier to tolerate. Doesn’t wipe my slate clean, but it does make me realize that I have purpose, even if I don’t always know what it might be.

Look for the signs for AED devices. If you go someplace where people gather regularly and you don’t see one, ask the management why they don’t have them. Sure, they are expensive, but so are lives. That AED device may sit in the cabinet and never get used – but all it takes is a single time and it has more than paid for itself.

If you have an opportunity, take training in how to use one, but don’t let that stand in your way. Take the initiative, open the box – and let it lead you to saving a life.

 

Woody Allen

Woody AllenI’ve never been a huge fan of Woody Allen movies. Probably the one I like best is Radio Days, where he really didn’t appear, but it was nominated for best original screenplay.

There is a huge wave of sentiment on the internet these days about allegations that he may have molested his 8-year old daughter. SLATE magazine seems to be leading the charge with articles that assume his guilt, have already tried and convicted him, and want to coerce everyone into shunning the man and his life’s work.

I heartily disagree. We have a system in the United States where our constitution says that we are innocent until proven guilty. Woody Allen was investigated at the time these charges originally came up, and they were dropped. He has never seen a court and we have no reason whatsoever to assume the man is guilty of anything.

His ex-girlfriend, Mia Farrow is understandably bitter since Woody dumped her and married her adopted daughter. By the way, Soon-Yi was 19 when the relationship began, of legal age, able to make her own decisions. Mia Farrow and Woody Allen were never married, there was no legal relationship between Woody and Mia’s adopted daughter.

ronanfarrowWoody and Mia’s son, Ronan is apparently convinced something happened and by taking advantage of the family news worthiness, insists on making a stink. Perhaps he should spend some time gazing in the mirror and looking at his mother’s own problems. Tell me this man is not the son of Frank Sinatra? He certainly looks nothing like his alleged father, and is the spitting image of Frank.

The latest was an article on Slate that insists that should Cate Blanchett win the Oscar for her role in the latest Allen movie, she should refuse to acknowledge him, or even refuse the Oscar altogether.

What is the matter with our society? We are that far broken? We are going to try and convict Woody Allen in the newspapers because the courts couldn’t? We’re going to besmirch a lifetime of his work because suddenly it isn’t good anymore?

We are a bunch of hypocrits. If he had slaughtered someone by running over them with a car, we would have welcomed him back into society with open arms after he served whatever sentence he got. But, because someone dared to mention the possibility of child abuse, we are all up in arms and demanding that he be wiped from the face of the earth.

Please.

Get him into court, convict him with evidence, and sentence him to whatever reasonable punishment is possible for his crime (certainly something far less than he would get for murder), and then we can decide rather or not we want to watch his movies or turn down awards for his literary work.

Otherwise, under our American system of justice, he is an innocent man and we are simply persecuting him and should be ashamed.

Terms and Conditions Apply

I stole this from Mark, but it perfectly sums up my feeling about the Christian faith, especially as practiced in America.

Gay Marriage – is that really what we wanted?

This past week many Gay Americans and their friends celebrated the decisions made by the U.S. Supreme court in regard to gay marriage.

In essence, if you’ve been in a cave recently, the court decided that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, and that the Federal Government had to treat all legally married people the same.

They didn’t go so far as to say that every state had to allow gay people to marry, only that the Federal Government needed to treat all legally married people the same.

The second decision applies just to California, but will probably be used in future cases in other states. Because the State of California decided not to appeal the decision in Prop 8 which denied gay marriage, the “outsiders” who did pursue the appeal, had no standing to do so, therefore the lower courts should never have allowed the appeal to proceed in the first place.

I am in my third relationship. This is probably a sign that I’m not very good at relationships, even though the first two were heterosexual, and the current one is homosexual. Perhaps, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, had I been in a place more welcoming of my homosexuality, or in a family more accepting, or had the means to go to a more understanding place, things may have turned out differently.

For a lot of years, even knowing I had a preference for men, I tried the “wife, kids, dog and house” thing, primarily because I thought that was what adults did in life. It never occurred to me that two guys could actually live together and be happy. I’d no exposure at all to the “gay world” except through a few sticky pages of porn magazines and whatever I could glean from library books on the sly. None of that information helped much.

In fact, most of the information available to me simply reinforced the fact that my feelings about sex were dirty, nasty, immoral and wrong. Nothing I read or saw as a young adult gave me any positive feelings about myself.

In my early 30’s, when events conspired to force me to stare myself in the face and come to terms with who I am, I finally began to explore the various corners of “the gay world.” It was a scary place, the apex of the AIDS crisis, Ronald Regan was president, and one of my first exposures to this world of gay people was a trip to Washington, D.C. for the 2nd display of the AIDS quilt.

Through a Compuserve chat group, I began to correspond with other gay people, although I still didn’t really know any personally, I thought. I moved into a small apartment by myself, and although it took awhile to work up the courage, I would occasionally drop by the Mirabar in Providence. Even then, it was very much a solo thing, and continued to be so for another twenty years.

I’ve been partnered since late 2007. Or, maybe 2008. It’s hard to pick a date when John and I became an “us”. We were house shopping in July of 2007, but didn’t actually move in together until January of 2008.

We’re not very much alike. Most people I meet for the first time seem to have a hard time believing I’m gay. I’m the fix the plumbing, fire up the grill kind of guy, while John is more the “what color curtains should we put in the Den” kind of guy. Oh, don’t get me wrong – he’s not flaming by any means, we are just that different. He notices small things like cobwebs, while I wouldn’t see one unless it also had a twelve-pound hairy-legged spider hanging from it that tried to converse with me.

It’s also taken me a very long time to figure out who I am and what it takes to make me happy. And even longer to realize that doing what I want to do and being happy is OK. That I don’t actually have to pretend to be someone other than me just to make someone else happy.

Aside from the fact that my first two relationships were with women, I think the primary reason they were doomed from the start is that I was doing something I thought I ought to do, instead of something I wanted to do. I was trying to live a life that was projected on to me by others.

And it’s that realization that has me a bit uneasy about this whole gay marriage thing.

Contrary to popular belief, there really is no single organized gay “voice” that speaks for all gay people. We are as diverse and varied a group as can be found. In fact, if you put 15 gay men in a room, I would bet you’d be more surprised at the differences among them than what was the same.

My partner and I have discussed gay marriage, and rather we would take the opportunity to get married if the option was available to us. It isn’t an option in either of the states we call home right now, so the discussion has been purely philosophical.

I really don’t want another marriage. Not only because I truly don’t want to be that obligated to another person, but on a level I’m having trouble finding words to express, I think that “gay marriage” is something that may not really be what  a lot of gay men really seek, especially if we are expected to follow all the same rules within that marriage that straight people expect.

For one, I’m just not willing to commit to monogamy. And honestly, of the limited number of gay people I know, even those who had decades long commitments to their partners, monogamy was not highly prized. In fact, most of them didn’t think it was an important requirement at all.

That certainly doesn’t mean that I’m bed-hopping, or spending time down at the local glory-hole, or coveting every good-looking male I pass. It simply means that if I’m in a time and place where sex with another person happens, I’m not about to feel guilty about it, nor am I going to let it interfere with the life I’m choosing to lead with the person I spend the most time with.

I may be really off base here, but I feel that we should have insisted on something our own, that was as equally respected and recognized as “marriage”. I feel that “marriage” has too many religious connotations, way too much history to overcome for us to be adopting the practice and trying to make it fit how we live our lives. I was perfectly happy with “civil unions” as long as those unions gave us the same rights and responsibilities we sought.

See, I don’t think we were seeking the right to marry, so much as we were seeking the right to form whatever unions we liked, but have them respected equally with marriage. I don’t feel my neighbors have any right to pass judgment on my personal living arrangement. I certainly don’t think the government has a right to interfere in any relationship I have.

I think that all families are legitimate. Any combination of humans that come together and form a family should be respected and treated the same. Who sleeps with who is immaterial, and I really have a hard time understanding why it matters to anyone.

It’s not just about sex either.

As I said earlier, there are as many different ways to be gay as there are gay people. But no matter how each of us lived our lives, until now we have been “us” versus “them”. We’ve formed our own communities, our own churches, our own culture, side-by-side with, but separate from the “straight” community. We’ve learned to walk down the sidewalk, proud of being who we are, at times even flaunting it with a “don’t you dare diss me” look at passers by who may have been shocked.

Do we really want to fully assimilate into the rest of society? To no longer be special and different? There is a part of me that doesn’t want to see us become “normal”. After spending the first half of my life trying so hard to be just normal, I’m now not so willing to give up being not-normal, now that I’ve come to terms with myself.

So, as thousands of my fellow gay people celebrate their lifelong goal of being able to marry someone they love, I really feel good for them, happy for them, and wish them well.

But personally, I remain a bit distant from the desire. Maybe it’s because I’ve been kicked one too many times and just don’t want to formally commit at the level required of a marriage. Maybe it’s because I really doubt that the world will let us redefine marriage as we need to in order to fit it into our culture and lifestyle. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid that we are venturing way too far over the border into normalcy, and as a result we will disappear.

Many would say that by refusing to commit on the level of a marriage, I’m leaving open the possibility of just walking out when things become rough. Hah! How many marriages end in divorce within five years? More than half? A piece of paper on the wall does not make a relationship lasting.

I don’t think I’m yet able to fully voice my reasons for being uncomfortable with gay marriage. By no means is it because I think it is wrong on some moral or religious level; just more to do with the belief that maybe it isn’t the right solution for us. Like a shirt handed down from your big-brother that is just a bit too big or too small.

In any case, I bask in the glow of increasing acceptance by my neighbors, friends and relatives. The increasing understanding that we didn’t choose to be gay anymore than we chose to have a receding hairline or poor eyesight or big feet. Yes, there are a lot of people who still think we are evil sinners, bound for hell, and we’ll never be able to change the way they think. But, it is nice to know that we can turn our backs on them, ignore them, and continue to be happy and healthy and free, and in some places, even get married.

Food Fight!

I’m not sure what to make of the recent spat over an elderly southern ladies admission that in the past she may have used a racial epithet, or may have wanted to have a wedding reception attended by elderly gentlemen wearing sparkling white coats.

Paula Deen has been a fairly popular Food Channel personality, as well as making the occasional headline over her weight, or how healthy her food may or may not be.

Really though, she might as well fall right in line as one of my aunts. She talks like them, she thinks like them, she cooks like them, and as all of us of a certain age who grew up in the deep South, grew up in a time of segregation where blacks and whites rarely mixed.

When I was a kid, the “N” word was a common word used by all of my family. I think I was in my early teens before I even knew there was another one to use, and certainly I was in my teens before I understood that most black people considered it a not very nice word.

I would never consider using it now, either privately or publicly, but the fact that I have used it in the past should certainly not disqualify me from working somewhere where I have public exposure.

When I was a kid, the separation of blacks and whites was just something that was – I gave it no more thought than I would have to why it rained.

My Dad and Grandad referred to black people using the “N” word, most of the time not in any way of derision, but in the same manner and tone that they would call a dog a dog or a horse a horse. When I was young, people with black skin were called niggers. That is what I was taught by my parents, and I didn’t think anything of it at all.

I really didn’t even encounter black people in school until my first year of High School. The only major race mixing event that had occurred was about the time I was in the 4th grade when I met my first Cuban. Living in South Florida, in the early 1960’s, this was a big event, and happened about the same time as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As I entered High School, much farther north in the state, forced segregation and busing was beginning. I was fearful because my parents were fearful. As I went about my daily life, and began to actually know some young black people around my own age, I began to understand that just because you learn something from your parents, it doesn’t mean it’s right, or that you have to believe it too.

It was a process. It helped that I joined the Navy right out of school, and very quickly moved into an environment where it simply wasn’t proper to hold a grudge against someone because of their nationality, their race, their religion or their culture. In the military, the only thing that mattered was how well you did your job, and how well you backed up your fellow shipmates when the crap hit the fan.

Paula Deen is guilty of having absolutely lousy advisors. She should fire them all. Paula Deen is guilty, perhaps, of a terrible apology. She should try harder. Public Relations apparently is not something at which she has great skill.

She should not have been fired from her Food Channel job because of being a Southern Lady of a certain age who once upon a time did things the way generations before her did them.

 

 

When the police are corrupt

When I was a child in school, one of the classes we were required to take was called “Social Studies”. I’m not sure it is among the few classes still taught in our diminishing educational system, but in my day it was where we learned how our government worked.

One of the things we were taught was that Policemen were godlike creatures of absolute authority, and that the thought of one of these people doing anything “wrong” was in the same vein as imagining the world coming to an end.

Of course, this was the 60’s and coming home from school to watch the 6’oclock news filled with riots and lines of policemen behind face v\shields, fending off the hippies who were dropping posies down their gun barrels caused no end of confusion in our developing minds.

An article in the NY Times the other day, and a subsequent opinion article bring to light the fact that policemen are just like anyone else who belongs to a group. They exhibit group mentality and this breeds on itself so that ultimately, many otherwise law-abiding policemen may say things in a courtroom that aren’t true, merely to protect the group.

While telling untruths to protect your “clan”, whether it be a fraternity or a boy scout troop is considered most of the time to be justified, telling anything other than the absolute truth when you are a policeman is simply abhorrent.

Our whole American system is built on trust. Trust in our Policemen is one of the bottom rungs of the ladder. We need to trust our local officials, the ones we hire to enforce our laws, or the system simply doesn’t work.

We are seeing signs of chaos intrude, government officials at all levels acting in a manner that may enrich their pockets or their private circle of friends, but harms the bigger “club” – our country.

Pay attention who you vote for – do some research, make sure the people you put into office aren’t there just to line their pockets, and we’ll all be better.

 

 

Guns and stuff

When I was a kid, I was always aware of guns. It was the south, the 60’s, and most people I knew had a gun, or several.

My grandfather wore a pistol in a shoulder holster. My older brother used to take me and my younger brother out shooting. My great-grandmother had a .22 rifle she kept handy. Guns were all around us, everyone had access to them, and you never heard of some crazy loon walking into a school and shooting up a classroom full of kids.

Guns, or access to guns likely have very little to do with Columbine, the Aurora Theater, the Fort Hood shooting, the Newton school incident, the Westside Middle school shootings, or any of the other 62 mass murders committed with guns since 1982.

In fact, when I was a kid, the mass murders that made the news rarely even involved a gun. There was Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Albert DeSalvo (Boston Strangler), David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) and Richard Speck. None of these horrific criminals used a gun to wipe out dozens of victims at once; instead they took out their victims one at a time, over months or years, using strangulation, or knives.

Guns were no less available 40 years ago than they are now, so I would ask the question as to why we have seen such a spectacular rise in kooks committing these crimes with guns.

While I am certainly no scientist, I think there is one main factor. Television.

Yes, Television. Every other TV show has taken the art of “grisly” and compounded it. From CSI to Grey’s Anatomy to Bones – the art of depicting blood and gore has become so common that we are desensitized to it. We think nothing of seeing human entrails, gaping wounds, vast pools of blood, and because it happens on TV, it’s easy for us to forget that when this happens to real people, the effects are deadly.

The other reason I believe that TV is a root cause of our rise in spectacular mass murders is that the news media has turned into this huge piranha like machine that simply devours anything and everything in order to fill the 24×7 news feeds necessary to keep the machine running. The ultimate goal of every 24×7 news channel is to fill those 1,440 minutes of every day with something that makes their viewers stay tuned in.

Covering the local PTA meeting may be something we need to see and hear, but covering a shooting six states away in a town no one ever heard of before will be something that causes viewers to stand up and notice.

Couple this with the fact that a lot of these mass murderers have a drive to be noticed, to go out at the peak of their 15 minutes of fame, and you have a rather unscientific cause-effect scenario.

It works for me. When I was a kid, TV shows wouldn’t dare show what they do now. Even movies were cautious about what went on screen. How did Alfred Hitchcock make his movies so scary with so little blood? Could he be successful today?

Apparently kooks feed off one another. They see someone getting their name in bright lights, and suddenly we have all these gun incidents.

It isn’t the guns.

OK, I’ll admit, there is absolutely no reason for a private citizen to have a high-powered military grade assault weapon. Just as we don’t allow private citizens to have nuclear bombs or a stash of grenades in the basement, we should ban all assault weapons.

Mind you, it won’t stop the criminals, and it won’t eliminate all the ones already out there, but it will make a lot of soccer mom’s feel better about it.

I feel badly for all the affected families. I had just moved to Colorado when the Columbine school shooting happened, we could almost see the school from our office windows, and even though I didn’t know anyone who was affected, it felt like a blow to the gut. But, even though I felt so badly, even then I knew that guns weren’t the problem.

Mental health care in this country is practically non-existent. Many employers who offer health insurance either don’t include mental health care, or have such a tight limit on what is covered and how much can be spent annually that it is near useless.

Then there is the stigma. As a society, we act as bullies to anyone who shows a need for mental health care. It’s right up there with having AIDS – something not to be discussed, and often left untreated rather than suffer the embarrassment.

We can make ourselves feel better about this by letting our legislators pursue some useless bit of legislation that bans private citizens from possessing a few really dangerous weapons, or we can really address the problem by insisting that mental health care is as important as going to the dentist or being treated for cancer.